Why #ISIS cares about #Ferguson

Standing on the rubble of a bombed-out apartment complex in Gaza seems an odd place to see a sign supporting rioters in Ferguson, Missouri.  Yet, there he stands, a man with a forlorn look, holding a homemade sign declaring Gaza’s support for the movement in Ferguson. The links between Gaza and Ferguson are not obvious to the general public, and require a deep dive into American left ideology. Indeed this is exactly why the links between Gaza and Ferguson should be treated seriously. Anti-establishment ideology is ubiquitous in American activism and research into the solidarity between Gaza and Ferguson opens a Pandora’s box of extremism which ultimately leads to a British Jihadi fighting for ISIS.

In August the terrorist group, the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine” issued a statement of solidarity with the protestors in Ferguson. The PFLP, amongst other things, stated “…the empire will fall from within.” The phrase is not merely an extremist platitude, it is a philosophy that many activists in the United States either ignorantly follow, or willingly promote. Regardless of where one stands in the activist continuum, they all acknowledge that no external force would ever bring down the United States. But what if a force was able to crumble the system from the inside? Is there a precedent for this? The answers to these questions explain the recent messages from ISIS to Ferguson.

If one looks at the Arab Spring or Euro-Maidan one sees a common theme emerge; when governments fail, extremists thrive. No one can reasonably argue that the Arab-Spring didn’t benefit al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, or even ISIS to a certain degree. Syria is a failed state and is the global training ground for Jihadists from California to Chechnya. In each of these cases, the impetus for unrest came from within but was fueled by outsiders who leveraged the chaos to seize power. Power was found by those who could move swiftly into a deteriorating situation and establish order. Iraq, Syria, and Egypt all stand as a testament that a government can be crumbled from the inside and that extremism is quick to move in and take over.

Returning to Ferguson, is there a foreign influence and does it encourage anti-government sentiment? The answer is a resounding yes. For example there are at least a dozen pro-Palestinian groups on the ground in Ferguson operating, organizing, and encouraging the unrest. Each of the groups have direct links to Gaza and spread their ideology through drawing moral equivalencies between the “oppressive Israeli occupation” and a “racist, militarized police force” in the United States. They all understand that once a person accepts the premise they are being systematically targeted by an oppressive regime, any tactic becomes morally acceptable. Hence, rioting, looting, and even violence are not only suggested, they are encourages. The police in the United States are now seen as a militant arm of a Fascist regime, controlled by anomalous powers and fueled by institutionalized racism.

This is the exact vector four members of ISIS used to inject their support for Ferguson. Their messages, while seemingly short, are firebrands stoking distrust, anger, and extremism. They seem to have watched the influence of the anti-Israel groups and decided they too can capitalize on the dissent. Their messages are an acknowledgment that the plan has worked before, and could work again. The question now becomes will Ferguson act as a rally point for lone wolves or homegrown violent extremists sympathetic to ISIS, al-Qaeda, or PFLP? Time will tell. The “Food Stamp Bomb Plot” foiled last week does not appear to be connected to an international group, but was terror inspired nonetheless. Their amateur attempts may be a “one-off” or may be the beginning of a new wave of insider attacks aimed at undermining the government. Again, time will tell.

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